The 2016 Wuhan Open final will be contested between the number 10 seed, Dominika Cibulkova and the number 14 seed, Petra Kvitova in Saturday’s final… and no one can deny that they haven’t earnt it! While Kvitova knocked out the world number one, Angelique Kerber in one of the matches of the year on Wednesday, Cibulkova has won three matches in the space of 24 hours to reach the final.
As competitors go, Cibulkova is one of the most committed on the tour. She has produced a series of gutsy displays to reach the Wuhan final and brighten her prospects of qualifying for the WTA Finals in Singapore. Cibulkova has spent ten and a half hours on court this week and four of her five matches have gone three sets. After having to win two matches on Thursday, Cibulkova came back on Friday and played her longest match of the week so far, battling from a set down to defeat Svetlana Kuznetsova, 3-6 6-4 6-4 in a superb semi-final that lasted two hours and 35 minutes.. The final set was high-quality tennis and Cibulkova was in the zone at the end, winning the last seven points of the match with some dynamic hitting against a tiring opponent.
In the second of the semi-finals, Kvitova produced an awesome performance to dismantle the game of Simona Halep, 6-1 6-2. There have been vibes of Peak Petra in Wuhan but this was sustained, from start to finish. Petra was hitting the ball so cleanly and dominating most of the rallies. The return was particularly potent as she fired multiple return winners past Halep. And it wasn’t all about the power too as Kvitova was successful with the drop shots early on. I’d guessed that the match against Kerber in the third round, lasting three hours and 19 minutes, would have taken a lot out of the Czech player, but she’s gone on to produce arguably two of her cleanest performances of the entire year since with wins over Konta and now Halep.
Head-to-head record: Kvitova leads Cibulkova, 4-2 in their head-to-head although Cibulkova has won their last two meetings. Cibulkova prevailed in Sydney (6-1 6-1, 2013) and Indian Wells (6-3 6-2, 2014).
Interesting stat: Kvitova is 17-6 in finals, while Cibulkova is 6-9. Kvitova will be seeking her first title of the year and to maintain a record of winning at least one title every year since 2011.
Final thoughts: Kvitova in full flight is simply a joy to watch. The sad fact is that those days have been few and far between in 2016. Since Wimbledon, Kvitova’s been winning a lot more matches and Wuhan has seen her take further positive steps forward to rediscovering her best tennis. Kvitova’s record in finals is superb and she was on it against Halep but she’s rarely been able to back up peak performances.
Cibulkova’s enjoying her best tournament since the grass court season following a slight lull during the summer hard court season. The most impressive aspect of Cibulkova’s week has been her resilience and tireless work ethic on court, twice coming from a set down en route to reaching the final. Adrenaline seemed to pull her through in the semi-finals but if Kvitova gets off to a fast start in the final, the Slovak player may suffer the same fate as Halep.
Petra predictions are somewhat futile – she’s an enigma on the court! One thing we know about Cibulkova is that she’ll throw the kitchen sink at Kvitova and then some. Peak Petra wins this comfortably but if Cibulkova can keep the scoreboard ticking over early on then it could be a very competitive match.